The anti-bullying advocate tells John Oliver that no one asked the former president if he’d consider a new identity
Monica Lewinsky wonders why people don’t ask her the same questions as Bill Clinton.
John Oliver, host of HBO’s T, +0.36% “Last Week Tonight,” asked Lewinsky on Sunday evening about the difficulty getting a job after completing her Master of Science degree at the London School of Economics in 2006, and asked her if she ever considered changing her name.
.. She also said it was a matter of principle, given that no one asked Clinton that question. “I think that’s an important statement,” she said. “I’m not proud of all the choices I’ve made in my life, but I’m proud of the person I am. I’m not ashamed of who I am.”
Lewinsky said it was sexist that the scandal was named after her rather than Clinton. “As hard as it has been to have that last name sometimes, and the pain that I have felt that what it’s meant for the other people in my family who have that last name, I am glad I didn’t change it,” she added.
.. But Lewinsky also said there may have been an upside to Facebook FB, -3.55% and Twitter existing in 1998 when her relationship with Clinton became public. “I might have heard some support from some people,” she said. “It would have been more balanced.”
.. Still, she told Oliver that the media representation of her became more and more detached from her real persona. She described it as a form of identity theft. “It was a shit storm,” she said. “It was an avalanche of pain and humiliation.”
“Not to say I wasn’t flawed, or make terrible mistakes or do stupid things, or say stupid things, because of course I did,” she added. Lewinsky said the scandal is referenced somewhere on a daily basis. “Because the scandal has my name,” she added, “I’m forever attached to it.”
I didn’t believe the story when I first heard it—presidents and staffers don’t carry on like that. When I came to see it was true, I was angry. I wrote angrily in these pages.
I see it all now more as a tragedy than a scandal. I am more convinced than ever that Mr. Clinton made the epic political miscalculation of the 20th century’s latter half. He had two choices when news of the affair was uncovered: tell the truth and pay the price, or lie and hope to get away with it.
If he’d told the truth, even accompanied by a moving public apology, the toll would have been enormous. He would have taken a hellacious political beating, with a steep slide in public approval and in stature. He would have been an object of loathing and ridicule—the goat in the White House, a laughingstock. Members of his party would have come down on him like a ton of bricks. Newt Gingrich and the Republicans would have gleefully rubbed his face in it every day. There would have been calls for impeachment.
It would have lasted many months. And he would have survived and his presidency continued.
Much more important—here is why it is a tragedy—it wouldn’t have dragged America through the mud. It only would have dragged him through the mud. His full admission of culpability would have averted the false testimony in a criminal investigation that became the basis for the Starr report and the two articles of impeachment the House approved... The American people would’ve forgiven him for the affair. We know this because they’d already forgiven him when they first elected him. There had been credible allegations of affairs during the 1992 campaign. Voters had never thought highly of him in that area. His nickname the day he was inaugurated was “Slick Willie.”.. If he had chosen the path of honesty, Americans wouldn’t have backed impeaching him, because they are adults and have also made mistakes and committed sins.
And we know Mr. Clinton would have been forgiven because in September 1998—after the Starr report was released, amid all the mud and lies and jokes about thongs and cigars—a Gallup poll asked, “Based on what you know at this point, do you think that Bill Clinton should or should not be impeached and removed from office?” Sixty-six percent answered “should not be.”
Bill Clinton, political genius, didn’t understand his country’s heart... It was a tragedy because in lying and trying to protect himself, Mr. Clinton was deciding not to protect America. And that is the unforgivable sin, that he put America through that, not what happened with Monica... The Starr report ran 452 pages and contained an astonishing level of sexual detail, of prurient, gratuitous specificity. Congress could have withheld it from the public or released an expurgated version. It didn’t have to be so humiliating. But Mr. Clinton’s enemies made sure it was... Almost immediately on receiving the Starr report, Congress voted to release it in full, “so that the fullest details of his sins could be made public,” as Ken Gormley writes in his comprehensive 2010 history of the scandal, “The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr.” They put it up on the web. Its contents wound up on every screen in America, every newspaper, every television and radio... Lawmakers released the videotape of Mr. Clinton’s grand-jury testimony, so everyone could see the handsome presidential liar squirm.Mr. Starr’s staffers said they needed extremely detailed, concrete specificity to make the American people understand what happened. At the time I assumed that was true in a legal sense. Now I look back and see mere blood lust and misjudgment.
I see the desire to rub Mr. Clinton’s face in it just as he’d rubbed America’s face in it.
Top to bottom, left to right, a more dignified government, one that cared more about both America’s children and its international stature, would have shown more self-restraint and forbearance. And there might have been just a little pity for the desperate, cornered liar who’d defiled his office... It wouldn’t have so ruined the life of a woman who, when her relationship with the president commenced, was only 22. She paid a steeper reputational price than anyone. Charles Rangel, at the time a senior Democratic congressman, said on television that she was a “young tramp.” The White House slimed her as a fantasist. She went into hiding, thought about suicide.And in the end, 20 years later, she put the Clintons to shame.
.. Publicly for two decades she has reacted with more style and dignity than they, said less and with less bitterness and aggression, when they were the ones with all the resources, and a press corps eager to maintain good relations with them because Hillary would surely one day be president.
Monica told her side and kept walking, and even refrained from blaming her shaming on the Clintons. Feminists abandoned and derided her. She took it all on her back and bore it away. In my book, after all this time, she deserves respect.
Sometimes America gets fevers. They don’t so much break as dissipate with time. Twenty years ago we were in a fever. Others will come. The thing to do when it happens is know it’s happening, notice when the temperature is high, and factor it in as you judge and act, realizing you’re not at your best. Twenty years ago, almost none of our leaders were.
They eventually allowed her to make a call, but she still hadn’t decided whether she would help the FBI. Then the agents threatened to go after her family.
“He said, ‘Well, you should know, we’re also thinking about prosecuting your mum for the things you said she did on the tape,'” she said, crying.
“In order to cooperate and avoid charges, I would have to make monitored phone calls which they would listen in to and record and I might have to wear a wire and go see people in person.
“I was mortified and afraid of what this would do to my family. I was still in love with Bill at the time so I felt really responsible.”
Two decades on from the outbreak of the scandal, the now public figure and writer said she still doesn’t “feel comfortable talking about it”, but the one thing that she’s adamant about is that despite the moral and ethical implications, it was a consensual relationship.
“It’s not as if it didn’t register with me that he was the president. Obviously it did,” she said.
“‘But I think in one way the moment we were actually in the back office for the first time the truth is I think it meant more to me the someone who other people desired, desired me.
“However wrong it was, however misguided, for who I was at that time, at 22 years old, it was how I felt.”
A consequence of the increased power of campaign consultants was a blurring of the line between campaigning and governing, creating the titular “permanent campaign” dynamic. The decline of industrial-era bosses and rise of poll-driven consultants, Blumenthal argued, mirrored the broader transition in the economy from manufacturing to computing and information technology, “where white-collar workers outnumber blue-collar, computers are the archetypal machines, knowledge is a vital form of capital, much heavy industry is exported to the more dynamic Third World countries, and America becomes the home office of the world.”
.. The basic argument of Rise of the Counter-Establishment is that the conservative movement emulated what it perceived as a loose but effective conspiracy of elite institutions — the Brookings Institution, the Ford Foundation, the New York Times editorial page — and so created a much more cohesive and effective counter-establishment — the American Enterprise Institute, the Olin Foundation, the Wall Street Journal editorial page — to combat it. “They imitated something they had imagined,” Blumenthal wrote, “but what they created was not imaginary.”
.. The book, the conservative writer Tevi Troy notes, “provided a blueprint for what would be called the vast right-wing conspiracy”
.. It laid out who, exactly, the enemy was that a new generation of Democratic politicians had to defeat.
.. Clinton, Blumenthal writes, was part of a group of Democrats interested in “rethinking … the future of liberalism and the Democratic Party”
.. [President Clinton] said, “Monica Lewinsky came at me and made a sexual demand on me.” He rebuffed her. He said, “I’ve gone down that road before. I’ve caused pain for a lot of people and I’m not going to do that again.” She threatened him. She said that she would tell people they’d had an affair, that she was known as the stalker among her peers, and that she hated it and if she had an affair or said she had an affair then she wouldn’t be the stalker any more.
.. the crux came when Blumenthal was questioned about whether he had been tasked by the White House with spreading rumors about Lewinsky being a “stalker.” He had already told the grand jury that Clinton told him Lewinsky was known as a stalker among her peers and resented the label. The question was whether Blumenthal spread this further in the press... Christopher Hitchens, signed a sworn affidavit saying that Blumenthal had called Lewinsky a stalker repeatedly in a March 19, 1998, lunch with Hitchens and his wife, seemingly contradicting the claim that he’d never called her a stalker in conversations with reporters... a motion from Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), who would vote against Clinton’s conviction, to have the Senate investigate “possible fraud on the Senate by alleged perjury in the deposition testimony of Mr. Sidney Blumenthal.” Nothing came of the matter, and Hitchens eventually promised to withdraw his affidavit if Blumenthal were ever put on trial. The two remained distant for years, but reportedly reestablished contact shortly before Hitchens’s death from cancer in 2011... Blumenthal was also a central figure in recruiting the unlikeliest Clinton loyalist to date: David Brock, the former American Spectator reporter and anti-Clinton muckraker who has since become a liberal stalwart, founding the media watchdog group Media Matters and the Democratic Super PAC American Bridge... learned how Drudge had been prompted by a small group of right-wingers to post the libel about me on his website.” They became friends, and Blumenthal became a counselor to Brock as he broke from the right, a move announced in a 1997 Esquire article titled “Confessions of a Right-Wing Hit Man.”Politico’s Thrush calls Brock’s conversion “Blumenthal’s greatest coup — and the one that cemented his standing as a Clinton loyalist.” Blumenthal.. Blumenthal had helped flip a key member of the counter-establishment he had chronicled a decade prior. He was putting his analysis of the right into practice, and getting major results... he was caught driving 70 miles an hour, drunk, in a 30 mph zone in Nashua, New Hampshire. The serious charge — “aggravated drunken driving” — was pleaded down after the arresting officer was called up for service in Iraq, rendering a trial impossible... he was involved in spreading some of the most vicious, race-baiting attacks of the primaries... a hoax originated by ex-CIA officer and ardent Hillary supporter Larry Johnson claiming there was a videotape of Michelle Obama railing against “whitey”.. Blumenthal and Hillary alike were convinced the tape was real... reports surfaced that she was planning to bring him on as a counselor, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, “Hell no. If she hires him, I’m out of here.” Senior adviser David Axelrod added, “Me too.” Emanuel was left to deliver the bad news to Clinton, who accepted the verdict.
The bombastic legal adviser to Stormy Daniels is taking cues from the era of O.J. Simpson and Monica Lewinsky.
All of the elements have worked in Avenatti’s favor: the missteps of President Trump’s lawyers and media defenders, the desire in Resistance America for a counterpoint to Trump’s dominance, and the eagerness of cable news to amplify and obsess over people who cause a spectacle.
.. Of course, this has long ceased to be just about Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, and her legal dealings with the president with whom she says she had an affair. Daniels says Trump bought her silence—for a while—through his lawyer/fixer Michael Cohen for $130,000. The saga has taken on a life of its own, with Avenatti treating it like an episodic television show, teasing information reveals, getting into all-out scraps with critics, and generally making it a capital-T Thing.
.. “I’m the lawyer for Stormy Daniels in the first instance and I’m the lawyer for the truth in the second instance,” he said on MSNBC last week.
.. It’s a field in which lawyers often operate as “lone wolves,”
.. Avenatti is not the first lawyer to rely heavily on media attention to litigate his case, nor is he the first to do this in a case involving the president. There are examples in the not-so-distant past: Monica Lewinsky’s lawyer William Ginsburg, famous for inventing the “full Ginsburg” maneuver of doing all of the Sunday talk shows the same day, and the lawyers for Paula Jones, who sued Bill Clinton for sexual harassment in 1994.
Joseph Camaratta, one of Jones’s lawyers, said he saw similarities in what Avenatti was doing “in the sense that you wanted to move the case along, keep the president on his heels, and, to the extent permitted, use the media as a tool in the toolbox.”
.. Camaratta said Avenatti had done a “masterful job” getting Daniels out from under the NDA. “He wants to invalidate the arbitration, he wants to take the president’s deposition. These are all things I’d be doing. These are all the right things to do for an aggressive trial lawyer.”
.. Alan Dershowitz, who worked on O.J. Simpson’s defense team and who has become a Trump confidant, said that Avenatti’s approach is the right one if he’s truly doing it for Daniels’s benefit and not just for himself.
.. “Here the object is not just to win the lawsuit, it’s to destroy the presidency. It’s to create problems for Trump.”
.. whereas the Simpson case unfolded during the early rise of cable news, the Daniels case is playing out in a landscape dominated by social media. Everything is faster, and there are more news cycles per day.
.. Ken White has criticized Avenatti’s threatening reporters who have written about him—something that has happened several times. An email he sent to Daily Caller reporters threatening to sue them, for example, was in White’s view poorly executed because it failed on a number of levels to be a credible threat, neglecting to list specific complaints and identifying itself as off the record, a demand for secrecy that makes the substance of Avenatti’s complaint seem specious.
.. On Twitter, White coined a term—“Avenattos”—for Avenatti’s adoring followers, whom he sees as analogous to Trump’s
.. Avenatti, he said, is “beating Trump at his own game.”
.. Avenatti, who briefly changed his Twitter avatar to a version of Shepard Fairey’s famous Barack Obama poster but with his image instead of Obama’s and his catchphrase “Basta”—meaning “enough” in Spanish or Italian—instead of “Hope,”
.. Avenatti has said he would like to face off against Giuliani on Fox and Friends.
.. “He’s out-lawyered them and out-media’d them. It’s an easier job because he has an easier client.”
.. Turley said. He added that the NDA had been poorly constructed, giving an opening for Avenatti to argue that his client shouldn’t be bound by it.
.. Trump’s lawyers, Turley said, had “tripped every wire that Avenatti has put in front of them.”
.. agent Jay Sures had pitched television executives on a Crossfire-style show starring Avenatti opposite Anthony Scaramucci
.. There’s also been interest in his personal life; he filed for divorce against his wife Lisa Storie Avenatti in December 2017
.. Avenatti also defaulted on back taxes he agreed to pay the government.
That setback in 2012 now serves as a parable of resilience in the legend Avenatti has been crafting about himself — both with a string of multimillion-dollar jury verdicts and with his brash, almost nonstop cable news appearances.
.. It is another big bet for an attorney with an enormous appetite for risk whose roster of courthouse adversaries includes mega-corporations, as well as celebrities, such as Paris Hilton and Jim Carrey.
“He is an adrenaline junkie,” says Jonathan Turley, who taught Avenatti at George Washington University’s law school and has stayed in touch since his former student earned his law degree. “I think he needs that adrenaline rush. He lives his life aggressively. In both litigation and in life he shows a certain aggressive style.”
.. The next he’s delving into entrepreneurial pursuits, such as buying Tully’s, a struggling Seattle coffee-shop chain, or blasting around a track while competing as a driver in a professional racecar circuit, sometimes hitting speeds of up to 195 MPH. The main photograph on his website depicts him in a race suit, rather than a business suit.
.. “Initially, I was very skeptical about getting involved because I, much like many Americans, had preconceived notions about Stormy Daniels and her motivations and what she is all about,” Avenatti says.
It took him only about 20 minutes to decide that she was credible, he says, although he won’t reveal what led him to that conclusion.
.. Avenatti’s foil in the Daniels melodrama has been Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, as much as the president.
.. Avenatti has been daring Cohen to appear on television with him to discuss the case. He recently used an enlarged photograph of Cohen as a propduring a contentious appearance on CNN with Cohen’s attorney, David Schwartz.
.. But Avenatti is arguing a broader case about the integrity of the president and his legal team — and drawing from a well-honed playbook of using media appearances as an integral part of his strategy.
.. Brian Panish, a prominent plaintiffs attorney who has worked on cases with Avenatti, compares his former colleague to William Ginsburg, Monica Lewinsky’s attorney famous for appearing on all the Sunday talk shows on the same day during President Clinton’s White House-intern sex scandal. It spawned the term “the full Ginsburg.”
.. his father was unexpectedly laid off, and the son went to work to earn tuition money by doing opposition political research on Republicans and Democrats for a firm owned by Rahm Emanuel
.. His cases included a $10 million defamation lawsuit, which ended in a confidential settlement, that he filed on behalf of a socialite client against Paris Hilton. He was also on the team of lawyers who sued Trump and the producer of “The Apprentice” on behalf a man who said they stole his idea for the hit show. The case ended in a settlement.
.. Avenatti says he’s been lead counsel on $1 billion worth of verdicts and settlements. The biggest, by far, came last year when he won a $454 million jury verdict in a case against Kimberly-Clark and Halyard Health related to claims that the companies knowingly sold defective surgical gowns that were not impermeable to Ebola and HIV, despite representations that they were.
.. Avenatti has also been engaged in a heated financial dispute with a former law partner who’d sued saying he was owed millions in unpaid fees. At a court hearing , a lawyer for one side characterized the level of acrimony as “unbelievable.” But the partners have now settled the case and are back on speaking terms, and Avenatti — employing a few four-letter words, as he is wont to do — says the portrayal of the squabble has been “overblown.”
As any longtime legal hand in the capital remembers well, it was a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by an Arkansas state employee, Paula Jones, against Bill Clinton that led to his impeachment for lying about his affair with Monica S. Lewinsky.
.. The case of the adult film actress, Stephanie Clifford, who uses the stage-name Stormy Daniels, may not get past even the first considerable obstacles. But if her court case proceeds, Mr. Trump and his longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, may have to testify in depositions
.. Ms. Clifford’s agreement with Mr. Cohen stipulated that they would resolve disputes in the confidential arbitration proceedings. Assuming she does not blink — and her lawyer has said she won’t — it will fall to a judge in Los Angeles, where the suit was filed, to decide whether to compel Ms. Clifford to return to arbitration or allow the case to go forward in court
.. “A lawsuit opens the door, and judges almost always allow for a plaintiff to have a fishing expedition,” said Robert S. Bennett, the Washington lawyer who represented Mr. Clinton in the Paula Jones case. The questions could include, “Have you paid other people money?” he said.
.. perhaps intending to broaden it later to include claims that Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen coerced her into silence. “If that happened,” he said, “they certainly could seek to depose Trump.”
And in that case, he said, “I can certainly imagine how it might get broader.
And if it did, the wide array of Trump’s sexual interactions could be addressed
.. Ms. Clifford’s signature on the contract, and acceptance of the money, could count as a clear sign of agreement.
.. But other legal experts were struck by the sweeping nature of the nondisclosure agreement Ms. Clifford signed, and expressed skepticism that it would hold up in court. Beyond the circumstances of the alleged sexual relationship, the agreement barred her from doing anything, even indirectly, to “publicly disparage” Mr. Trump... Ms. Clifford has claimed that she met Mr. Trump at a celebrity golf tournament in 2006 and began a relationship that included sex and promises from Mr. Trump to get her on his NBC show “The Apprentice” and to give her a condominium... Mr. Avenatti argues that because Mr. Trump did not sign it himself, the agreement is invalid — a point Mr. Super, the Georgetown professor, basically agreed with and Mr. Noble said might have merit... The extent to which Mr. Cohen was acting on his own in striking the agreement with Ms. Clifford and paying her is crucial.. Important factors in the case would include just how closely Mr. Cohen coordinated the payment to Ms. Clifford with Mr. Trump and whether it was intended to help the campaign avoid negative publicity... But in her suit, Ms. Clifford tries to implicate Mr. Trump in the transaction, saying the offer of money was intended to buy her silence to help “ensure he won the presidential election.”.. It could have simply been a personal matter, he said, of Mr. Trump wishing to keep a secret from his wife.